Tip #122: Learning Styles

In last week’s discussion of Howard Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences, my source must have predated Gardner’s determination of an eighth intelligence:

8. Naturalistic intelligence – Naturalistic intelligence allows people to recognize and classify species and other aspects of their environment. Students who enjoy studying the world around them – insects, cars, or stamps – display strength in this intelligence.

I apologize for the omission.

According to J. Diane Jacobs-Connell: Gardner’s theory has inspired thousands of teachers to challenge themselves by expanding their instructional approaches and creating lessons that have allowed students to access content through their different intelligence strengths.

Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence theory, which he describes in Emotional Intelligence New York: Bantam Books, 1995, 1997), is also based on findings in neurological research. According to Goleman, the five dimensions of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. (Jacobs-Connell finds a strong correlation between Gardner’s interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences and Goleman’s five emotional dimensions.)

1 Self-awareness–knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them
2 Self regulation–handling feelings so they’re relevant to the current situation and you react appropriately
3 Motivation–“gathering up” your feelings and directing yourself towards a goal, despite self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness
4 Empathy–recognizing feelings in others and tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues
5 Social Skills–handling interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiations

Goleman’s brain-based research brought public awareness to the need to focus on the emotional climate in our classrooms. Lessons gleaned from brain-based research demonstrate ways that teachers can help set the best emotional climate for students to learn.

According to the site: www.funderstanding.com: Research in brain-based learning suggests that emotional health is fundamental to effective learning. According to a report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs, the most critical element for a student’s success in school is an understanding of how to learn. (Emotional Intelligence, p. 193.) The key ingredients for this understanding are:

  • Confidence
  • Curiosity
  • Intentionality
  • Self-control
  • Relatedness
  • Capacity to communicate
  • Ability to cooperate

These traits are all aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Basically, a student who learns to learn is much more apt to succeed. Emotional Intelligence has proven a better predictor of future success than traditional methods like the GPA, IQ, and standardized test scores.

Researchers have concluded that people who manage their own feelings well and deal effectively with others are more likely to live contented lives. Plus, happy people are more apt to retain information and do so more effectively than dissatisfied people.

I thought it might be useful to see how a lesson can be taught that incorporates emotional intelligence. The following lesson plan was designed by J. Diane Jacobs-Connell, who describes it below (I have added the bold emphasis):

Literary Fridays
I recently had a golden opportunity to “practice what I preach” with elementary students. Arlene Fisher invited me to teach in her 3rd grade inclusion classroom at the Abbot School in Westford, Massachusetts. From March through June 1999, I designed and implemented a series of brain-based reading lessons. Each of the 90-minute lessons was designed to address as many of the multiple intelligences as possible — and as many of the five dimensions of emotional intelligence as possible. The central focus of most of the lessons was books that contained rich historical and naturalistic references.

A Sample Lesson: The Bee Tree
In The Bee Tree, written and illustrated by Patricia Pollaco (New York: Philomel Books, 1993), a loving Grampa teaches his granddaughter, Mary Ellen, how to observe and follow four bees in order to find a bee tree. The book is also about the celebration of life with neighbors and food (fresh honey and biscuits). Grampa issued a challenge: he spooned some honey on the cover of a book and asked Mary Ellen to “taste.” He explained, “There is such sweetness inside of that book, too… adventure, knowledge, and wisdom…. Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!”

Here, now, are some components of the lesson, along with the brain-based theories upon which each component was based.

  • The Grabber. In this activity, the teacher makes a few statements and asks a few questions to build excitement and involve students. Statements I used and questions I asked included: Understanding this book may change your view of books forever! What is the sweetest thing you have ever tasted? Do you have grandparents? What do you call them?

From a neurological standpoint, the Grabber taps into the verbal-linguistic and intrapersonal intelligence areas and the emotional intelligence dimension of self-awareness and motivation.

  • Vocabulary Builder. Each week, two to four new vocabulary words were written in bold colors on a decorated chart. We discussed the meaning of the words, and then I read The Bee Tree aloud to the class as they viewed the illustrations.

This activity draws upon the verbal-linguistic and visual-spatial intelligence areas and the emotional intelligence dimension of empathy.

  • Selected Themes. Each week, we discussed themes that pertained to the story. Themes from The Bee Tree included adventure and excitement; logic and math (Why did Grampa use four bees? What was the approximate distance from Grampa’s house to the bee tree?); the importance of grandparents in our lives; and the readers’ experience (How is reading sweet? How can you chase things through the pages of a book? How can books change our lives?).

This activity taps into the intrapersonal, existential, logical-mathematical, and verbal-linguistic intelligence areas and the self-awareness and empathy dimensions of emotional intelligence.

  • Science and Nature. This activity included a brief lecture and discussion, with pictures of bees, beehives, and honeycombs. We discussed how bees use honeycombs and the many ways people use honeycombs. (We use honeycombs to make crayons, chewing gum, ear-plugs, waxed paper, floor wax, and so on — just in case you were wondering!) We also discussed the bee’s main body parts and how honey is made. I brought real honeycombs, plus honey made from bees in our hometown. Each student got to see and taste a part of the honeycomb. They also ate some honey spread on a sugar cookie.

This component taps into the verbal-linguistic, visual-spatial, naturalistic, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences and the motivation and social skills dimensions of emotional intelligence.

  • Dance and Music. In this component, students first listened to Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Students then stood up and interpreted the music through movement. I asked students to consider how the music made them feel, and then I asked them to use their response to the music to describe how fast or slow bees move, to determine whether bees’ movements are focused or unfocused, and whether bees are serious or lighthearted. (Keep in mind, there are no “right” answers to those questions.)

This activity addresses the musical-rhythmic, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and verbal-linguistic intelligences and the emotional intelligence dimensions of managing moods and empathy.

  • The Culminating Project. This project was led and coordinated by the classroom teacher, Arlene Fisher, who has far more visual-spatial skills than I do. Students were asked to make their own honeybees, using black pipe cleaners for the legs and antennae, two eye buttons, wax paper for wings, and yellow construction paper for bees’ three body parts (the head, thorax, and stomach). “Flight of the Bumblebee” played softly in the background as students worked.

This culminating project taps into the visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, verbal-linguistic, and naturalist intelligences and the social skills and self-regulation dimensions of emotional intelligence.

The Call for Creative Brain-Based Teaching
The Literary Friday lessons engaged the regular and the special education students in Fisher’s class. In the 90 minutes we shared, students were eager to participate — even on a Friday afternoon — and were willing to take risks with their answers.

It’s important for teachers to learn how to tap into and nurture the intelligence strengths of all their students. Teachers must be guided by — yet willing to go beyond — their neurological strengths and use what they know about learning to create deep, multifaceted lessons. Teachers must also use what they know about emotional intelligence to provide a safe yet stimulating learning environment for all students. This is the type of teacher I’ve become. Why not join me on this brain-based learning journey? [J. Diane Jacobs-Connell]

An interesting side note: I was not aware that Daniel Goleman did not originate the concept of emotional intelligence until I did my research for this discussion. According to Wikipedia, the term “emotional intelligence” appears to have originated with Wayne Payne (1985) and the leading research on the concept originated with Peter Salovey and John Mayer starting in the late 1980s. In 1990, their seminal paper defined the concept as an emotional intelligence, or the “ability to monitor one’s own others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.

They developed a hierarchical, cognitive model of emotional intelligence that includes four components, listed from the simplest to the most complex:

  1. Perception, appraisal, and expression of emotion;
  2. Emotional support for thinking;
  3. Understanding and analyzing emotions and applying emotional knowledge; and
  4. Reflecting regulation of emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

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